Replying to negative (and positive) feedback on Yelp as the business owner is always a best practice. Many businesses are realizing this and many experts are advising it. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Be truly conciliatory, not passive aggressive. I have seen plenty of business take the latter route. Your customer has had a bad experience, they don’t want to hear about how the service usually is or how no other customers have made this complaint. The goal is not to aggravate them further.
If you must include a defense make it about what values your business strives to employ. For example instead of saying, “Typically our customers don’t have to wait 30 minutes to make an order” you can say “It is important to us that our customers are attended to in a timely manner, we are sorry we did not live up to this during your visit.”
2. Be willing to actually say “sorry”. This is a dying word in our culture. No one wants to be truly apologetic or culpable for something that went wrong. You should not be in this camp. This is about your business showing customers you are service oriented. Say, and actually be, sorry!
3. Give a clear action to win back their business. Often we see businesses replying to negative reviews and offering either unclear or no action steps toward getting the business back. Instead of asking them to email or call to discuss resolving the issue, offer them something tangible. “Please email us at ______ and we would love to send you a $15 dollar gift certificate. We would like to get another chance to serve you.”
While you are at it, consider rewarding the loyal and raving customers as well. Those are the people who will evangelize your business if you just give them a reason to!